What was my most embarrassing moment? Combine my brash disregard for tradition, my total lack of tact, my predilection for clumsiness and the possibilities for humiliation are endless. The longer I live, the longer the list. But I draw a great deal of comfort and hope from the life of Peter: his screw-ups and his terrible case of foot-in-mouth disease give me hope.
Where shall I begin?
Like Peter, my mortifying moments never ended.
I taught an entire marriage conference session with my fly down sporting stripey Fruit-of-the Looms for all to see. Fortunately, we were in Greece, so the congregation thought my wardrobe malfunction was a new American fashion trend. Soon after, I visited the little girl’s room during a youth choir rehearsal break and forgot to turn my wireless microphone off. Oh no!!! One spring Sunday morning, I wailed away on my B-3 rock organ for three services with my shirt inside out and nobody even told me. I guess I wouldn’t have minded much but the tag had XL in enormous letters on the back.
One sweltering June afternoon, our church rock band played a water park gig in L.A. Suddenly, the wave machine dumped two gallons of water on my leopard print leggings. They became transparent! I crawled behind the drummer and grabbed a nearby beach towel. I still cringe!
One sizzling July afternoon, I stood to conduct an orchestra the size of Nebraska for a city-wide outdoor patriotic event. The blistering heat in the ballpark caused the shellac to peel off the $15,000 cellos. I raised my baton on the towering podium and realized that the short red, white and blue skort I sported so distracted the audience, some forgot to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner. I guess I was “spangled” enough!
I sold my best friend’s handmade Christmas present for fifty cents at a yard sale. Guess what? My friend was sitting right next to me. I forgot I had received it from her. I priced her lovely item at 50 cents. Then I gave a lovely wooden salt and pepper shaker to our head deacon’s wife for Christmas. She opened it, glared back at me and reminded me that she had given it to me last Christmas. Bad for business.
I confided to a young pastor that the marriage manual we were required to use for our conferences was really, really lame. He let me know that his father-in-law had written it. Oops. I probably shouldn’t have called the Women’s Missionary Union ladies “biddies.” Awkward. The worst was the day I hugged a friend and told her how sorry I was that her husband was having an affair. He hadn’t told her yet. The list goes on. And on. And on.
That’s why Peter’s feet of clay mean so much to me.
Peter, the apostle was not alone in his uncanny ability to say and do the wrong thing at the wrong time on a daily basis. Jesus took his awesome threesome (Peter, James and John) up to the Mount of Transfiguration to rejoice with Him on the greatest day of His life: the day He shown with heavenly glory, talking with Moses and Elijah. (Matthew 17:1-9) Instead of reverently worshipping in silent humility, Pete piped up that they should build three memorials and invite the crowds to view the supernatural spectacle. Father God shut him up. “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to Him.” (v. 5) Way to go, Peter.
Jesus confided in His beloved twelve that He had come to earth to die. “Oh no, not you, Lord!” “Get behind me Satan,” Jesus retorted. (Matthew 16:23) Oops. Peter just affirmed Jesus was the Christ and the very next second he’s the mouthpiece of Satan. How humiliating!
Christ needed comfort and support in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Mark 14:37-38) Jesus was weeping and Pete started snoring. Wounded Jesus looked for his buddy the night of His trial and Peter denies Him like a yellow-bellied coward. Wow.
Peter’s three-time denial of Jesus was a new low…even for him! (Mark 14:66-72) The rooster crowed and Peter cowered. The coward!
Peter was embarrassed, humiliated, mortified. But his story wasn’t over. Jesus wasn’t finished with him. And he’s not finished with you or me either.
Jesus patiently came alongside Peter at the seaside as the disgraced disciple chomped on his McFish sandwich. (John 21:16) How remarkable! Peter had forsaken his holy calling post-crucifixion, and had returned to his stinky angling profession.
Jesus still didn’t shame Peter. Instead, Christ affirmed him by entrusting him with a life-long pastoral ministry. He called him to be a shepherd, just like the Him, the Good Shepherd Himself.
The fact that Jesus gave Simon Peter grace instead of condemnation is a great encouragement to me. I still marvel that after his bloopers, his missteps, even his denial, Jesus restored the crusty fisherman and prepared Him to spearhead the Christian church.
As I recall my multitudinous misspeaks and missteps, I am no longer surprised by my feet of clay. I know that God loves me in my broken state, and I trust that He will patiently continue to conform me into His image. I need His love, understanding and forgiveness. I’ve walked in Peter’s shoes. And so have you.
That’s why Peter writes, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 NIV